Republican congressman insists Jan 5 tour group was taking photos of children’s artwork, not Capitol tunnels

Georgia Republican Representative Barry Loudermilk has said that the tour group that accompanied him around the US Capitol on 5 January 2021 – the day before the insurrection – was taking pictures of children’s artwork, not the tunnels in the Capitol Hill complex.

Mr Loudermilk has repeatedly rejected the suggestion that he was leading a recon tour of the complex ahead of the Capitol riot.

The January 6 committee has released video evidence which appears to show members of a tour group led by Mr Loudermilk photographing and recording “areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints”.

A man taking part in the tour seen in the video taking photos of stairwells and checkpoints was allegedly spotted in another video shared by the committee threatening senior members of the Democratic Party.

Some Democrats have accused Republican collegues of giving tours to people who later went on to take part in the insurrection on January 6 2021.

The House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot has asked for a meeting with Mr Loudermilk, but US Capitol Police has said that “there is no evidence” that he led a tour of Trump supporters trying to learn more about the Congressional buildings.

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger wrote in a letter to Representative Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican who serves on the House Administration Committee, that “we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious”.

Mr Loudermilk told Fox News on Wednesday that the Capitol Police’s understanding of what took place “doesn’t fit the narrative that the January 6 committee wants to come up with”.

“Why they’ve targeted me? I don’t know,” he said. “People who come to Washington, DC, like these people who’ve never been there before, they’re excited. They’re taking pictures.”

He told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that the visitors were allowed to take photos where they were, on the lower level of the building, “except for right around the House chambers”.

“People take pictures there all the time,” he said. “Why doesn’t the January 6 committee show the entire video because they’re taking pictures all up and down the hallway.”

“When the guys near the tunnels go into the Capitol, that’s where they hang the artwork that school children give. And at the other end, there [are] the trolleys, the trains and the kids wanted to see the trains that take the congressmen to the House chambers. That’s all this was,” he added.

The new footage was made public as part of evidence provided to Mr Loudermilk along with a letter from select committee chairman Bennie Thompson renewing the panel’s request for Mr Loudermilk to give evidence in a voluntary interview with committee members and staff.

“Based on our review of surveillance video, social media activity, and witness accounts, we understand you led a tour group through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021. That group stayed for several hours, despite the complex being closed to the public on that day,” Mr Thompson wrote, adding that Capitol surveillance footage shot that day and obtained by the panel depicts “a tour of approximately ten individuals” led by Mr Loudermilk viewing “areas in the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon House Office Buildings, as well as the entrances to tunnels leading to the US Capitol”.

The chairman also noted that the persons on the tour led by Mr Loudermilk took photographs and video of various hallways, stairways, and Capitol Police security checkpoints, and provided surveillance video screen grabs which depict the congressman leading the tour and standing by while a tour group member shot a photo of a staircase in the Longworth House Office Building.

Another photograph showed members of Mr Loudermilk’s group shooting photos or videos of the tunnel connecting the Rayburn House Office Building with the Capitol.

“The behavior of these individuals during the January 5, 2021 tour raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex,” Mr Thompson wrote.